Saturday, 31 December 2011

Walking backwards - on the brink of 2012.

Hello hello, I hope you all had a lovely festive period, whatever you celebrate.

A year in which some things happened ...and failed to happen sometimes about to end. I'm writing this post in the last hours of 2011, fireworks going off outside (a little prematurely?) and the occasional sound of a 'merry' person shouting in the street. I'm about to change into my pyjamas and watch a film, after a long 3 days in the Day Job, rather than partying tonight (I'm too tired, too shy, too broke...)

It's that funny looking-forward / looking-back time of year, isn't it? I heard somewhere recently (probably on QI) that a different culture to mine considers the future to be 'behind' you, because it cannot be seen (whereas the western metaphor tends to be the past being behind you because you've already moved through it) I think about this; the future behind me, the past stretching out before me with its landscape of memories, successes, failures, disappointments and joys. As I step both forwards and backwards into 2012...I get a little dizzy!

I'm approaching 2012 with a strange blend of optimism, pessimism, hopefulness, worriedness and thoughtfulness. 2012 has been hanging around in my mind as a year for Big Things, not least because it's the year my age will get a big round zero at the end of it. I want to get back on track with my career, figure out what to do, where to live, how to survive. I'm thinking I might get back into painting more. I have some ideas for the Etsy and Folksy shops (see links on the right) that I mean to try out. But the financial situation puts pressure on these things, and I think 2012 may be make-or-break time for my self employment. To be totally honest, I'm pretty nervous.

So, kind blog readers, I have decided to make a special offer for you (and also for my followers on Twitter). If you would like to buy from me and so help give me a good boost into 2012, (boosting funds for the business as well as helping me move towards paying myself a modest pay packet before the end of the tax year in April, and perhaps more importantly boosting my confidence for the coming year of work) then here is a little code you can enter into checkout on Etsy from either JumpUp or scatterboxoriginals, which will give you free shipping on any order - I will keep this valid until the end of Twelfth Night (EDIT due to some variation in how people figure these things out, I'm going to make that Friday afternoon (UK time) that the offer ends) What you do is put what you want into your cart on Etsy from either of my shops (JumpUp or Scatterboxoriginals). Then in your 'cart' page, there's an underlined bit on the right saying 'enter coupon code' - click that and write in capital letters the following word:


And that should make your shipping (or P&P as we Brits like to call it) totally free to anywhere in the world. So please, dear blog readers, dear fans of JumpUp and Scatterbox Originals, dear random people who stumbled across my blog looking for a recipe for treacle toffee*, do feel free to treat yourselves to something I have made, and in turn help to make 2012 my good year.

Oh and here, these are some videos I took on the train journey home from my Christmas visitings. Very aptly, they are of travelling backwards (my seat faced the rear of the train)


*(sorry! I seem to be more google-able for that than for 'nice people who sell their handmade items' so one resolution for next year is to actually try making some treacle toffee and blogging about it)

Friday, 16 December 2011

Feets too big?

My footprints are pretty big for a girl. Well, as I've mentioned, I take a UK size 8 (a 7 in more sensibly cut shoes) which I believe equates to a 10 in the USA or a 41 in Europe. It's not like I'm that tall either, coming in at about 5'5". My sister made Harry and the Hendersons jokes when I was a kid (see title of this post)

As you probably know by now (or not, if you're new to this little blog of mine), I'm trying to be more eco friendly. Have you spotted the corny segue? Ah yes, well done. Carbon footprints.

Firstly, since this is a blog about me and my work and should really be the truth, I'm going to lay my cards right on the table and say I'm no eco-angel. I'm not quite as 'green' as Kermit, and as he himself did say, it's not easy being green.

Things I DO do, to help reduce the proverbial carbon footprint I'm making.

* I don't drive. Not 100% for ecological reasons, mind you - my instructor gave up on me when I was 17. He wasn't the best teacher, and certainly not suited to the nervous driver type, but there you go. Maybe I will gain the confidence to drive again one day (and when I do, it will be something as eco friendly as is viable to have where I live) I walk to the shops, I catch public transport. Occasionally, a friend will give me a lift somewhere. If I get my groceries delivered, I try to go for the slots where they say the driver is going to be in my area anyway.
This is a nice place to be walking everywhere.

* I don't travel a lot. Last time I went on a long-haul flight was 2005 (ah, Manhattan, I loved you, and would have more so if it weren't for being ill and on a stressful Uni trip to tote my illustration portfolio around your many marble-foyer-ed publishing houses) I'd like to see more of our lovely planet while it and myself are still going strong, but so far in my nearly 3 decades of life, I've been abroad something like 12 times, which for a European is actually quite little, really. And I might have counted the 2 hours I spent in Calais one very rainy, dull day (we were on the ferry there and back for more time than we spent in the town. I would have liked Calais better if it weren't for being so taken over by British people making the most of the tax-free booze opportunity. Sorry, Calais.)

* I use recycled materials quite a lot. In JumpUp, this is the whole idea of the shop. Scatterbox Originals doesn't have so much eco-friendly materials yet, but I use recycled card for the note cards (I found the loveliest UK supplier for those) and the paper from the writing sets I used to sell was made with pulp from ethically managed forests. For the new ideas for Scatterbox (which sadly I've had to put on hold until after my xmas break) I'm looking at using some nice organic, fairtrade cotton. This is one of the first things I bought to salvage for JumpUp, a luxurious, but sadly boil-washed-and-partially-shrunk-by-accident (by whoever owned it before me) scarf.

This scarf became a couple of purses, Bert the plush doll and more recently, some Mountain brooches.

* I use recycled and eco friendly packaging as much as possible. In Scatterbox, I tend to still use jiffy mailers that I've bought, because I'm a bit tentative about how people will feel about the recycled packaging and because the shop isn't so overtly "I Am Eco Friendly" as JumpUp is, I'm not as confident doing that yet. I think I will shift over to using the same packaging for both though, especially since the lady in the post office yesterday was full of praise for my homemade eco friendly envelopes. I do try to make them pretty - they're pages saved from old books (usually ones with damaged covers that charities find harder to sell), taped at the edges with decorative gum tape and sewn on my sewing machine to form an envelope.

* I use energy saving bulbs at home wherever possible (my living room is fitted with halogen bulbs set into the ceiling, but I can't change that. I tend to use my lamp in the evenings anyway, which does take an energy saving bulb)

I think this is a pretty good start. There are things to build on; using eco friendly washing powder etc more consistently, avoiding those occasional times of 'what the heck, the clothes are filthy so I'll do them on a hot wash just to be sanitary', and reducing my use of the tumble dryer at the laundrette (I don't have a garden here or an airing cupboard, and not a lot of space for airing clothes, so in the cold and wet months it is tricky). I've also got plans to try to reduce my electricity consumption (partly for money reasons) somehow.

Anyway, so that's how I try to make my (metaphorical) footprints smaller. It's not easy being green...but then, in many ways it doesn't take that much effort, really.

Oh by the way...I have decided that instead of going into invisibility mode during my Christmas break, I'm going to keep the shops open and do a special offer to compensate for delayed dispatch times (I'll be back from visiting family a bit after Christmas but I have to work in the day job, so orders after Sunday won't be mailed until 3rd January) That special arrangement will start on Monday, so if you want to browse and shop while this Cat's away, and don't mind receiving your order in January, go ahead and play next week! Up until then I'm still taking orders to send within two working days (today being the last day that I feel orders posted are likely to arrive in time for Christmas) Any orders over the weekend are going to come with me on the train to see my family, and be posted from there on Tuesday (possibly time to arrive for Christmas but it would be pushing it)

Monday, 12 December 2011

The Glamorous Life of a Crafter

Today featured:
* Rain and coldness
* Photographing another El Bandido cat burglar purse for Scatterbox Originals
* Photographing another recycled wool purse for JumpUp
* Editing the photos
* Listing the purses
* Realising the colours were a bit off. Editing again. And again.

 * Procrastinating over my Etsy shop stats. I like how the graphs make patterns like a little landscape. (this screenshot is from a while ago, as you can see...)

Or in some cases, a little gnome...oh, please tell me you can see a gnome here...maybe it's just me...he's peeking up...(there's little green eyes from the markers Etsy puts when you've listed or renewed an item in your shop or shared a link on Twitter)

 * A trip to the post office to mail a couple of sales from the weekend (poor post office workers, the computer system had gone offline repeatedly - a national thing apparently - for some reason, and it was a busy day for them with so many people rushing to get their Christmas cards and gifts mailed off...the assistant was still pleasant to me though. Generally, the staff at Falmouth post office are nice)
* A trip to the shops to buy myself some warm socks and clothes, as it appears I didn't quite have enough yet.
* A trip to the metro supermarket to buy food to last me until my Christmas break.
* A trip back to the clothes shop because they'd forgotten to give me back my reloadable gift card (I could write a whole rant of a post on here about how shops have all gone onto these plastic cards which are meant to be reusable but which most people seem to throw away, or not get back from the shop once they've used their balance...grmph!)

And then...walking home in the rain, my arms laden down with shopping, feeling soggy, putting my fan heater on (because the central heating is only on here for an hour in the evening...brr...) and then a cup of tea, my satchel unceremoniously flung on the floor...the new socks put on over my tights...slippers on...and a dvd (All Dogs Go To Heaven...classic!) and some sewing. This is how glam I am, are you ready for it?

So on my very glamorous lap you can see a new type of cotton pouch I'm trying out for JumpUp, and by my side you can see some little fabric embroidered badges that are another new idea. I hope you will all like them when they are complete!

Friday, 9 December 2011

Oh, Make Me Over...

On the advice of a kind critique giver on the Etsy forums, I have had a really good go at re-doing all my photos for JumpUp with the lighter backdrop. It took some courage to go onto the Etsy forums and ask for help, (even though it wasn't the first time I've done so) but I think I've taken on board what was said and I'm pretty happy with the new pictures.

This one, for instance:

I think it captures the colours so much better and also the texture of my embroidery. I'd really liked the blackboard backdrop because it meant I could doodle something for each item and keep a consistent look but a bit of variety as well. But I discovered that the blackboard was the reason why my photos kept coming out overexposed on the light coloured areas - something to do with how camera light metering works.

I've got around the loss of my doodle-able background by sticking cut-outs onto the board here - I'm starting with clouds, though I think I might try out some other shapes in future. A little house, some stars or little paper hearts maybe?

Please do click on the images if you'd like to see the listings pages!

Just to let you know, I'm going to be putting my shop onto vacation mode for the Christmas period - starting on the 17th December I think. This means my listings won't be viewable on Etsy during that time via my shop homepage, but if you click on a direct link (eg in a treasury or in your favourites list - or indeed the pictures in this blog which I usually link directly to their listing pages) then you will still be able to look at that item and have a browse.

Oh, and a note on last posting dates...the official last Christmas posting date for the USA, Canada and Eastern Europe is today* (Friday December the 9th 2011) - I'll be happy to continue sending orders to those destinations after today, but please note that I can't assure you of delivery in time for Christmas after today. If there are any extreme weather conditions where you live (for example my lovely kins-people of Scotland) then I recommend allowing as much time as possible for your order to arrive, in case transport links are effected.

I have more details on my last delivery dates in my shop homepage announcement.

*(this of course means it is a little too late now to order in time for the first days of Hannukah, if you celebrate that holiday and live in north America or eastern Europe)

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

How Things Look From Here

I've been working on re-doing some of my photos for JumpUp and Scatterbox Originals, because I know how important it is for online sellers to have good photography and for Etsy especially since a huge part of getting your work seen is having your items featured in treasuries that make the front page of Etsy and also getting chosen for the hallowed Etsy Finds emails. (I was once! I made a sale from it and got lots of views, it was lovely - I wish I'd had more listed at the time...that's something I'm still working on)

I love photography, and I considered it as a career when I was growing up although I didn't have a 'proper' camera but a basic old thing from my mum. I don't think my photos are to a professional standard, but I think my new digital camera is helping and I'm slowly learning new techniques. A lot of it seems to be in the 'staging' of photos - good use of props and backdrops.

For JumpUp, I had been using this blackboard as a backdrop:

(taken with my old camera, before it lost the ability to focus)

I really like the effect and the versatility. But then one day recently, I foolishly stood on my blackboard, which was lying on the floor after a photo shoot, me absent mindedly stepping across the room to get a pair of scissors. I put too much weight on it, and felt it buckle beneath my body. So it now has a dent the size of my foot (that would be a UK ladies size 7 to 8, USA size 10, European 41 - so a pretty big ungainly foot-sized dent!) at the side. It's still usable, but I decided to unscrew the two sides (it's an A-frame style / easel blackboard) and try to make use of the other side. The other side has a whiteboard for writing on with wipable pen, but the underside of *that* has this unusual mottled metal. I was going to try and get some blackboard paint and paint this non-dented half of the easel. But then I thought better of it...

I got the blackboard/whiteboard from my charity shop. Whoever owned it before me did a little doodle on the underside - I quite like it, so I've kept it in shot here. I think the mottled grey background works well for the photos - it gives a more natural colour and feels lighter. I still like the blackboard though, so I want to keep a mixture of the two backdrops.

It's very versatile to have the easel blackboard because I can doodle on it with chalk, use the mottled grey side for darker items that need a lighter background to show them off, and because of the height being right for setting up my little foldaway table in front, I can create little 'scenes' with various props, like the vintage skipping rope.
EDIT: it has been pointed out to me that the blackboard backdrop is a little dark and effects the exposure on my camera, causing pictures to be overexposed. I'm sad to say goodbye to the blackboard but I think I will try changing all my photos to the new approach now...what do you think? 

I think it's great that I can create these little scenes for my items even in my very unglamorous flat. Would you know the pictures above were taken in my bathroom? I suppose it helps living in an attic with a skylight in every room - I can chase the daylight!

I used the same board for a couple of new photos for Scatterbox Originals too, this time blu-tacking a sheet of graph paper to the board:

As you can see, I used that same spool of thread to show scale in the photo, and this time also my Pentel mechanical pencil which I use for some of my drawings.

I'm working hard on some new products for both shops. The new designs I mentioned for Scatterbox may have to partially go on hold for a while as I'm collaborating with a good friend who has kindly offered to do some screenprinting of my designs onto fabric for me, but she is swamped with work (quite understandably, she's a fab illustrator and crafty lady) so some of that new stuff is going on hold.

Anyway, I'm enjoying my new camera which was an early Christmas gift. Here's a few photos I took with it the evening after it had arrived, out of two of my skylight windows (closed and open)

There is still time for posting sales out in time for Christmas (just about time even to get things to the USA) so I am still hoping for sales to pick up. I have some new ideas for JumpUp which I hope to share with you soon, involving cotton versions of my wool purses and some variations on the theme of chunky embroidered stitched designs...

I'd love to hear your comments on my new photo set-up!

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Ain't No Mountain High Enough

Sorry, sorry, the title was inevitable. I've had the song in my head whilst sewing these new mountain brooches for JumpUp. They are made from wool salvaged from a jumper that had been used and abused by its previous owner and then callously thrown into a boil wash. When you wash wool too hot, it shrinks. This jumper didn't shrink as much as a fully wool one would have - it had 20% nylon in it which seems to be the case increasingly these days (supposedly for durability).

I mentioned the making of these in an earlier post (about three posts down from here).

I was going to have a rule of only using pure wool things to upcycle, but
a) the jumper had the most gorgeous grey marl flecked with blue
b) I didn't notice at first that it had nylon in it
and c) I realised that salvaging synthetic materials is actually more eco friendly as they won't biodegrade in the way that wool would if it ended up in landfill. 

For scale, I took a little self-portrait (um, minus my face) shot of the brooch on my lovely red jumper.

OH! And I took these photos with my new camera. It came yesterday. I think it's pretty good, what do you think? - I had a few rubbish photos from it but I'm still getting to grips with all the settings and bells and whistles so to speak.

The brooches are available in my shop on now.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

A Whole New Cat?

I thought you might like to know that I'm working on a little re-vamp for Scatterbox Originals. This blog doesn't often talk about that shop, I suppose. I felt it was time for a little change in the shop and a bit of a boost back into life (a re-mojo-ification, I like to call it) and since I've been thinking today about how my business has evolved, I thought I would share the story of my progress so far with you.

The Scatterbox Originals shop has been open on since 2006 (technically I started business selling handmade Christmas decorations on Ebay at the start of November 2005, so I have been going for 6 years this month!) and since then there have been many changes in what I sell.

I'm going to take a deep breath here and show you a photo of the first thing I sold on Etsy.

This is a small notebook which I cut, bound and stitched the cover for all by hand. It's a little cat design as you can see, which I drew and cut out of felt. It took me a pretty long time to make and I was quite proud of it, though I think my sewing skills have improved a fair bit since then! (I think my photography is a little better too maybe...) It sold to someone I know, someone who started out being my penpal in America when I was 15 or so, who I've stayed in touch with over the years. Thank you Sonia, for being my first Etsy customer! Most of my customers thereafter were total strangers, which is a strange feeling but kind of a nice one too.

After that I sold a couple of sets of clothes peg magnets (or clothespin if you use the American lingo) which I very painstakingly stamped with hand-cut star stamps made out of an eraser, and letter stamps put together with a kit, some tweezers, and more patience than I knew I had...

And then various bags and purses and iPod cozies with felt appliqué...I did all the stitching for the felt by hand, they took SO long to make... (It was a long while before I dared to try making appliqués with my sewing machine and discovered it went much better than I thought it would. I felt like using my machine was cheating, too, which was absurd, really!) 

In my 'Seedlings Beneath the Moon' bag, you can see the beginnings of my fondness for using big stitches to create pattern and texture, which later transferred into my Tree Stump Brooches for Treacle Toffee (the second Etsy shop) and then evolved into what I do for my JumpUp range.

And not forgetting The Attic Shelter For Troubled Felt Animals section, where I sold plush dolls made out of felt and cotton, all with a (heart wrenching!) back story. The Three Myopic Mice were a favourite.

I didn't feel I could compete on with all the other plush makers, so I moved away from making critters for a while (though anyone who follows JumpUp will know that there is a little selection of plush dolls in that shop now, of a different style)

There were other approaches I explored too, like the lino printing onto fabric:

The small number of items I made with the lino printing really were the products of blood, sweat and tears - literally, I cut myself a couple of times trying to cut the lino using the sharp tools, and shed a few tears when blocks I had spent over an hour trying to cut, went wrong at the last minute. I have so much respect for anyone who can accomplish lino printing with any degree of success - it is hard work and can be slow going. For the sake of my sanity, I had to give it up!

There have also been mobiles, writing sets and scarves:

I love those appliquéd kids scarves - perhaps one of my most favourite things I have made. I made them using brushed cotton flannelette (fabric used for pyjamas) so they were very soft and like being able to take a little bit of that cozy duvet day feeling out into the cold air. Sadly I realised that there are many laws governing selling things for children, with the new-ish law in America prohibiting the sale of things for under-13s (or things that could be construed as being for under-13s) that haven't been incredibly (and expensively) thoroughly tested for lead and phthalates, and then looking into the regulations here in Europe also, it all overwhelmed me. Doubt hit and I lost my motivation, my belief in my business and the things I was making. My trusty printer started to malfunction just enough to make it impossible to print any more writing sets without ink smudges. Suddenly, it all felt a bit impossible.

Even with excellent feedback under my belt and a pretty good number of people adding my shop to their favourites, I got into a slump. When I felt like creating again, I began experimenting with Gocco (the Japanese printing method that's sort of a hybrid of screenprinting and stamping) My character El Bandido got a good response and I sold several Gocco-ed notebooks with that cartoon on them.

So somehow I sort of came full circle - from one kind of cat notebook to another! El Bandido is quite different to that original fuzzy felt applique. He has been quite popular I think, judging by the 'hearts' on Etsy, the sales of various 'El B' notebooks, purses etc. So why have I stopped making El Bandido notebooks? Well, partly because I had to sell my Gocco printer (it sold to a lovely illustrator I happen to know named Emma) because I was struggling to get into a good groove with getting consistently good prints out of Gloria (um, yes, I named my Gocco. All inanimate tools and appliances tend to get a name here sooner or later, as Jan the Janome sewing machine would gladly tell you if she could speak) and also because I needed to free-up some funds so that I could afford to keep going with the business through the recession. (Cue Dickensian tale of woe featuring greedy bankers, clueless politicians, loss of consumer confidence etc, all beating down on the finances and spirit of this here artist, sitting in her cold little attic flat, eating Tesco Value Noodles and resting a hot water bottle against her stomach as she sews. She might even be wearing fingerless gloves and/or singing "Where Is Love?"...)

So what now? What's next for my little business? Well, I've had some new ideas. It's not a total change I don't think - hopefully there will be a logic to my progression and at least some of my lovely past customers will still be interested in the work that I'm making. While I am continuing with JumpUp (shop number 3) as well, I am planning on giving Scatterbox Originals another blast. You may have noticed the shop has a new banner...

Here is a little preview of what I'm working on - these are my images in progress on the way to becoming Things. Can you guess what they're going to be yet?

I will give you a small clue on what one of the images is cameo pin badges have had a good response in the past...

The Artist smiles inscrutably and perhaps ever so slightly annoyingly...and skips away to refresh her hot water bottle, and then to do some work on both her Etsy shops...please stay tuned! :)

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Chase the dark away

Tonight, I went to see Truro City of Lights. For those not in the know, this is a parade of paper lanterns. Really elaborate lanterns in the shape of animals, as well as some smaller simpler ones. It's held annually in Truro, which is the nearest city to where I live. By most people's standards, it's not really a city but a moderately sized town. But going to this parade I realised just how many people there are in and around Truro. The streets were packed (and we apparently went to 'the quiet bit')

As I said in my previous post, my camera is dying. I couldn't take as good pictures as I'd like to, they were really very fuzzy and blurred (partly due to it being after dark and me not having the steadiest hands but I'm sure an element of it was the loss of focussing ability in my camera) The peacock pictured above had a tail that fanned open and closed - it was spectacular.

Anyway, I did at least succeed in taking a couple of short videos of the parade.

You can see some lanterns made by schoolchildren - they were pretty impressive, I think they were jumping fish in the first video but there were quite a lot of penguins too tonight - and also a larger lantern which had fairy lights (or something like that) inside rather than a candle. I have to admit, my favourites were the larger lanterns with the fairy lights inside - I think because these lit up the paper more than the natural light of the candles, and showed off the beautiful work the makers had done with the structure of the lanterns.

And there's also the fact that they MOVED! My friend John compared it to the stage show of Northern Lights, which deplorably I hadn't even heard about until today (oh how I want to see that!)

There was a very effective portion of the parade with people dressed in black playing eerie music, led in front by someone dressed as a sort of raven - or possibly it was meant to be a Cornish Chough, which is the county's symbolic bird and I believe extinct or no longer in the area.

Supposedly the parade kicks off the late night shopping/Christmas shopping season in the city. I'm hoping all the small independent businesses do well this year.

A triangular kind of day

Yesterday evening I was working on some new mountain brooches. It got dark early, so I worked by the light of my lamp. It's only an energy saving bulb (I say 'only' - some people think that energy saving bulbs are too dim but I like the softness of them), but it gives off a lovely glow inside the lampshade I think. Here's a couple of snapshots of my work station. Note the all important set-up of sofa, radiator and glamorous roll of toilet paper for if I get a runny nose.

You may notice a cardboard triangle there on my little table. It's the end of a Toblerone tube - I've been naughtily snacking on Toblerone lately and only realised half way through sewing the mountain brooches that there's a bit of a triangular theme going on here! Even my lamp is bordering on being triangular.

Sorry the picture is a little blurry. I'm on the hunt for a good (cheapish) new digital camera as I think my old Olympus has lost the ability to focus. I may have dropped it a couple of times...ahem.

Here on the table you can see:
* My tape measure
* My red kitchen timer (I use the 'pomodoro' method where you work solidly for 25 minutes and then take a 5 minute break, then another 25 minutes and so on)
* New mountain brooches! Note that they're a little different to my first batch, with the stitching running vertically. You can't see in this picture, but the wool base is two shades, with a lighter grey at the top cut to an angle from the stripe that was on the jumper's sleeve. It's a different wool to the one in the other mountain brooches.
* White wool yarn skein
* Grey thread for sewing brooches up
* My amazing Fiskars scissors specially for fabric (rather sharp)
* End of a Toblerone tube. I am considering using it as a template for some smaller triangle brooches.
* Wool jumper (sorry, that would be 'sweater' in American English) that I'm using for the brooches (the last owner shrank it in the wash) It has a little bit of nylon in it, but you can't really tell.
* Scraps of the aforementioned jumper for sandwiching inside the brooches to pad them out
* My notepad. Perhaps I'm the only one that does this, but I work out how much each item I make costs in materials, for reference when I do my stocktake (which again, some handmade sellers might not bother doing) where I calculate how much the value of all my stock and materials are. I do this in April for the benefit of those lovely people at the HMRC tax office. The biggest cost in making these brooches is going to be the time spent. Making, photographing and listing this batch will probably equate to a full working day.
* My chenille needles - these are sharp needles with big eyes. They are essential for sewing thick yarn embroideries - I am so glad I discovered them!

Anyway, I hope you folks enjoyed a little peek into the very glamorous JumpUp studio! I wish I had one of those lovely bright, insanely tidy flats you see featured on Apartment Therapy and such. Maybe if I got rid of the toilet roll?

Thursday, 10 November 2011

In formation

I discovered this amazing video of a flock of starlings:

Murmuration from Sophie Windsor Clive on Vimeo.

The video is by Sophie Windsor Clive and titled Murmuration (who knew there was such a brilliant name for a flock of starlings?)

I got a bit hooked on finding similar things - this one is lovely too:

Monday, 10 October 2011

Advice to sink in slowly

Here I am, putting on my "Illustrator hat" to share a bit of news with you. A few years ago I created an image for the wonderful Advice To Sink In Slowly project - graduates submit poster designs with a theme of advice for those beginning a course at university. The aim of the project is to give free advice posters to as many first year students as possible, and it is all funded by the sale of posters and sponsored items (Howies, the clothing brand, have kindly sponsored a special edition poster and T-shirt design by Lizzy Stewart)
You can see my poster design "It Will Be Worth It" on the Guardian website here!

Anyone can help support the project by buying a poster - designs available to buy at the moment are on the ATSIS website.
My poster isn't available to buy at the moment but you can see a larger version of it on the website.

Monday, 4 July 2011

Life, still.

I spent most of today doing housework. I'd let the chores pile up a bit and the mess was starting to get really oppressive, so I tackled my bathroom and bedroom. Part way between cleaning the sink and turning my mattress over, I stopped and made this sort of still life kind of thing.

It's a lightweight wooden thing that was given away free by a gift shop (it had been packaging a customer didn't want or something...I got two of them), which I stuck to the wall with blu-tack; some pebbles from various beaches, shells from Ireland (one looks like a wing up close), the four-leaf clover given to me by a friend of my parents, and the ampersand brooch I bought from madebyanna on Etsy. To the right, I stuck a couple of interesting strips of paper leftover from when I cut up an old book to recycle the pages.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Got my work cut out

It's a fairly cool, breezy June day here in Cornwall and over the past few weekends at the Day Job I've found myself apologising to tourists for the disappointing weather. Of course, I shouldn't really apologise because I don't make the weather...

...but I do make (har that neat little corny segue?) I DO make Things. I think it's been a while since I put any work in progress on here's what I've got on the go right now:

This is a few purses at the halfway stage (all the hand sewing bit done, or pretty much) including a couple more butterscotch and grey purses, plus an embroidery I'm working on (one of the sediment series I blogged about recently) - I'm still deciding on the colours for the last layer for that one.

I've also been busy making some more fish ornaments. Unlike the first one, these don't have loops for hanging - I thought folks might want to choose to add a loop if they want and if not, they can rest up against something. They are available in the shop now (only £18 for the three! They took a few hours to make in the end, mainly the handstitching and the stuffing...I'm still perfecting my fishes so this is a kind of prototype price) I'm trying out something new with my photos - incorporating wool yarn and buttons...what do you think?

I'm working on something special to do with the fish soon I this space for more info!

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Seeing the wood for the trees

Hello. I just wanted to make a quick post update to say that I'm still here! I'm sorry I don't have much to share with you kind folks at the moment...I seem to have lost my mojo a bit. But I'm taking a long hard look at my work and what I want to achieve, and I hope to have some good news for you in the near future.

Anyway, I finally got hold of my dad's photos from the Ireland trip, and there was one of me with my mum, with a silly smile on my face...I'm aiming to replicate the silly smile every day.

Or maybe just a small, normal smile would be better?

 (I got a fringe by the way, as you may have noticed...and one month later I decided to grow it out. Bobby pins galore! At least my hair grows quickly...)
Anybody else ever feel overwhelmed by decisions to be made in life?

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Lay of the land

Hello folks. I just want to let you know that I have created a survey about my Etsy shop JumpUp. I'm trying to make the shop as good as it can be so your answers are much appreciated! If you enter your email at the end of the survey I will send you a code for free shipping (P&P in Brit-speak) valid until the end of 2011!

You can fill in the survey here:

Also thought I'd share with you a rough sketch I did a while ago for some potential embroideries for the shop. Are my vague pencil sketches an interesting insight into my creative process...or are they as incoherent as the mumbling sounds I make in my sleep, I wonder?

They'll look better in colour, I think...

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Ireland weaves a spell.

Hello folks, I'm back from my springtime holiday at last! It was a visit up north to stay with my family for a few days, see a couple of friends, and then went with my parents to spend a week in Ireland.

I've never been to Ireland before but always wanted to go - I had ancestors from there it seems, which makes me feel a little proud because all the people we met there were lovely. I'd heard that Ireland was very green (they call it the Emerald Isle of course) and it is - probably more so in summertime but I think it's the sheer amount of open space that makes the impact.

One of the places we visited was a village called Avoca, which was the filming location for the lighthearted 90s drama Ballykissangel - Avoca is very nice, with some gorgeous scenery nearby, but also has an attraction we didn't expect - a hand-weaving mill and shop. Apparently the mill is the oldest one in Ireland, dating back to the 18th century.

For a colour-addict like me, the shop was like a sweetshop full of goodies. Everything was a little outside of my budget sadly, but I got some nice photos of the looms inside the mill to share with you. I learnt a fair bit about weaving at school, as I grew up in Lancashire which was at the heart of the cotton industry in the 19th century (Etsy has an interesting blog post about one of the few remaining Lancashire cotton mills here) but seeing such a colourful weaving process really made me appreciate the intricacy and artistry of it. It is such a shame there aren't more mills like this remaining in Britain.

We also saw the beautiful Slieve Bloom Mountains, which I think may provide some arty inspiration for me in the future:

(Dad taking photos with his first digital camera, which is better than mine by far...I have camera-envy in a bad way)

I'll be getting back to the stitching and making soon, but this week I'm determined to finish my accounts for the's not a fun task for me, which is why I want to get it out of the way. Then, I can get back to the extensive list of Things To Make...